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Canada's Paralympic cycling team includes current world champions

07/20/2012 01:51 EDT | Updated 09/19/2012 05:12 EDT
Jaye Milley is hoping the bad luck is all in the past as he joins a dozen other cyclists on the largest cycling team ever fielded by Canada at the Paralympics.

Milley, a Calgary native, finished fifth in 2010 as a rookie at the world championship in the C1 road race category, but his hopes last year were dealt a setback when he got caught in a major pileup.

"Someone . . . clipped their pedal on the sidewalk curb and basically took out the last half (of the group)," he said.

He got up and back in the race but couldn't make up lost ground.

"I felt perfect and to have it snatched away from me like that, you know," he said Friday in a teleconference announcing the makeup of the Paralympic team.

"But the way I've been looking at it is all last year I was getting the bad luck out of the way for the Paralympics here, and it's going to be a fantastic year."

He says it still hasn't really sunk in that he's going to the Games.

"It's a whole bunch of emotions all at once," he said. "I can't really describe it."

Last year wasn't exactly a complete writeoff for the young quadruple-amputee cyclist, who won gold at the 2011 UCI Para-Cyling Road World Cup in Sydney, Australia.

With about 70 per cent turnover since the 2008 games, Canadian Olympic officials are looking for big things from this team.

Cycling high performance director Jacques Landry says it's the product of a complete revamping of the program after Beijing that brought in top talent, quality coaching, equipment and support.

"Of all the para sports in Canada, we are one of the sports that has the most potential to win medals in London this time around," he said.

"We did finish off last season being the second country on the women's side in para cycling internationally and around the seventh nation on the men's side."

With 19 more countries represented than at Beijing, the competition is expected to be tougher, but Canada's team includes three world champions and six world cup champions.

The world champions are Robbi Weldon of Thunder Bay, Ont., Marie-Eve Croteau of Quebec City and Shelley Gautier of Toronto.

All three are new to the team for the 2012 Games, but Weldon was at the 2010 Winter Olympics as part of the cross-country ski team.

Other members are: Mark Beggs, Montreal; Alexandre Carrier, Matane, Que.; Daniel Chalifour, St-Jerome, Que.; Robert Labbe and Dominique Mainguy, Quebec City; Mark Ledo, Maple, Ont.; Braydon McDougall, Calgary; Marie-Claude Molnar, Ste-Adele, Que.; and Genevieve Ouellet, Amos, Que.

Weldon, who is blind and races with her pilot, former Olympic cyclist Lyne Bessette, has been a dominant force in tandem cycling since she took up the sport in 2010. She will compete in time trials and road racing and has won championships in both.

Like Winnipeg's Clara Hughes, who went from cycling to speedskating, she decided to take advantage of her skier's legs and try cycling after the 2010 winter games.

"I've actually never had the opportunity to meet Clara, hopefully sometime this year I will, but she definitely is someone that's inspired me," said Weldon, 37.

Another inspiration was Saskatchewan's Colette Bourgonje, a Paralympic medallist in both summer and winter games in wheelchair racing and sit ski.

"I never dreamed that I'd be doing this in my 30s, a mother of two children," Weldon said when asked how it feels to be competing at an age when many athletes are looking to retire.

"I'm still getting stronger. The idea for me is I keep going as long as I keep getting stronger and faster, so hopefully I have a few more years to go."

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